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Real Estate & Property Law

: inversecondemnation

D-Day Draws Nigh For Honolulu Rail, Condemnations

By Robert Thomas (


On November 4, 2008, Honolulu voters are being asked to say yes or no to a proposed amendment to the Honolulu charter:

Shall the powers, duties, and functions of the city, through its director of transportation services, include establishment of a steel wheel on steel rail transit system?

A "yes" vote means that the proposed $4+ billion rail project is full steam ahead, while a "no" vote would, by all accounts, kill it. Resolution 08-166, CD1, which put the issue on the ballot, is available here.

If the voters approve of the project, it will be the largest public works development in Hawaii's history, and will require the acquisition of private property, either by purchase or eminent domain. In this post, we discussed an earlier report in the Honolulu Advertiser, "189 Hawaii properties in transit's path," which detailed the proposed rail route and some of the properties that may be affected. A few months later, the paper reported that "Dear Homeowner" letters were in the mail.

Yesterday, Sean Hao at the Advertiser reported "Rail study doesn't list all affected properties" --  

The locations of up to 212 properties affected by Honolulu's elevated commuter rail will not be released before Tuesday's rail referendum.

That means some residents who may be displaced by the rail project won't be notified before they vote on whether to authorize it.
. . . .

The city plans to release a new study on the rail project this weekend, but that study does not include the location of properties that may be fully or partially acquired to make room for the rail, the city said yesterday.

Those properties include 20 residences, one church and up to 67 businesses, according to an executive summary of the study.

Also, KGMB-9's Howard Dicus noted on his blog in a post entitled "The other side of the rail property story," that in addition to condemnation of the property to be used for a rail line and stations, property surrounding the stations will probably go up in value due to their proximity. True, "transit-oriented developments," as I discussed last year on Jay Fidell's ThinkTechHawaii radio program (podcast available here) may become vogue, but as this story from the San Francisco area notes, transit villages may need more than mere proximity to a rail station to make them valuable.

Of course, in addition to the property to be taken for the stations and the track, additional property will need to be acquired for construction-related activities, and still other property may be affected by the project in ways that will require the city to pay compensation or damages to the owners.  

Mr. Dicus promises more "after the election," and we look forward to his further thoughts.

Full post as published by inversecondemnation on November 02, 2008 (boomark / email).

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